Gifts, gifting and gift economies

On challenging capitalism with blood, plunder and necklaces

Authored by: Alf Rehn

The Routledge Companion to Alternative Organization

Print publication date:  December  2013
Online publication date:  January  2014

Print ISBN: 9780415782265
eBook ISBN: 9780203725351
Adobe ISBN: 9781135005399


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This chapter discusses the gift, one of the most romanticized and misunderstood economic phenomena in history, and the alternative forms of organization it can create. It will also address the manner in which this can be understood as a challenge to simplified notions about capitalism and the market economy, but rather than arguing for gift economies as a simple substitute for market economies, I will herein discuss the fact that the gift can be understood as being a permanent question to the notion of a triumphant market economy. I will, in this chapter, try to highlight the fact that even in the most craven and simplistic idea of market exchange there remains a social component that cannot be reduced to mere calculative rationality, and do so by way of examining the (not so) simple act of exchanging gifts and through this establishing relations.

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